Moving to Singapore can mean several things – a better lifestyle, career progression and a whole new experience for you and your family. We take the time to plan all the details but sometimes important tasks get forgotten, including those that can be difficult to address. Getting a will is not something anyone enjoys thinking about or actually doing, but in order to protect your family, a properly prepared will can make the process clearer and less distressing on your loved ones at a time of increased sensitivity. We sat down with Fiona Hoad, Director of Somerville Legal, a group of Sydney-based legal advisors who assist Singapore-based Australians on legal matters, to discuss the importance of creating a will with an experienced entity.
#1 Why is getting a will important?
A will allows you to leave your estate to whomever you desire. You can provide for your family and friends, make gifts to charity and ensure that certain valuable items such as jewellery or family heirlooms pass to the persons you wish on your death.
If you don’t have a will, it can make the administration of your estate much more difficult for your loved ones. In addition, the intestacy laws will dictate how your estate is distributed, which may result in some or all of your estate passing in a way you do not want – even, in some cases, to the government.
#2 What if I don’t have any assets in Australia or my home country?
If you don’t have any assets in Australia but you have assets in other countries (or vice versa), then you should have a will to protect those assets. Depending on the country in which the asset is held, and the type of asset, you may be able to prepare a will in Australia to cover the distribution of those assets.
#3 Would my Australia-based will be valid in Singapore? Can I protect my Singaporean assets with an Australian will?
In most cases, an Australian will is valid in Singapore. This is particularly so if you are considered to be ‘domiciled’ in Australia – that is, even though you are currently residing in Singapore or elsewhere, if you consider Australia to be your home and intend to permanently return there one day. If you’re no longer domiciled in Australia – that is, you intend to remain in Singapore permanently – an Australian will may still be valid, but you may wish to seek legal advice as to whether it’s more appropriate to have a Singaporean will.
The Singaporean law recognises foreign wills if they are valid in the country where the will was executed, or if the person making the will was domiciled in that country. There are, however, different laws for Muslims who are domiciled in Singapore.
#4 Can I make provisions for the immediate and long-term care of my children in the will?
In Australia, you can appoint a testamentary guardian of your minor children – any such appointment is subject to confirmation by the Family Court after the respective parent’s death. Of course, if there is a surviving parent, they would usually be solely responsible for the child in the event of the other parent’s death. In sole parenting cases, an appointment in your will of a testamentary guardian for your children would be taken into consideration by the Family Court in determining who should be granted formal legal responsibility and/or the care of the children.
If both you and your children live in Singapore then you should obtain Singaporean legal advice.
#5 Isn’t getting a will a difficult and expensive process? Can I just do it myself?
A will can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. Obviously a complicated will is likely to be a more expensive process than a simple will. The best thing to do would be to see a wills and estates lawyer regarding what you want to achieve with your estate plan and obtain an estimate of the costs, if possible.
We would strongly advise against anyone preparing their own will (unless they are experienced in this area of law!). Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to make mistakes in a do-it-yourself will which, if there is any ambiguity or errors, can end up costing your estate tens of thousands of dollars if your executor needs to apply to the court to rectify the will. In almost all cases, even a very simple will should be prepared by a solicitor. Failure to obtain legal advice in relation to these matters can leave your family substantially worse off.
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